Mountain gazelle

Gazella gazella

SUBFAMILY

Antilopinae

TAXONOMY

Gazella gazella (Pallas, 1766), Syria.

OTHER COMMON NAMES French: Edmi.

PHYSICAL CHARACTERISTICS

Mountain gazelles have a head and body length of 3.1-3.4 ft (95-105 cm), shoulder height of 2.0-2.6 ft (60-80 cm), tail length of 5.9-7.9 in (15-20 cm), and weight of 33-77 lb (15-35 kg). Males have a weight of 38-77 lb (17-35 kg), while females have a weight of 33-55 lb (15-25 kg). They have a slender build with proportional looking long necks and legs and exceptionally long hind legs. The coat is a dark brown in color, with white on the under parts and the backs of the legs. The coat is short and sleek during the summer months (in order to reflect the sun's rays) and is longer, thicker, and rainproof during the winter months (in order to protect it from the heavy rains). A narrow, dark flank band separates the dark dorsal tones from the white belly. A white line begins on the thigh and ends at the lower leg joint. The base of the hairs from the underside is buff colored, while the black tail is short and bushy. Both males and females have two elliptical (in cross-section) horns that are arched backwards, generally S-shaped, and separated by about 1 in (25 mm). Horns are used primarily for defense against predators (for example, butting small enemies). Male horns are 9-12 in (22-29 cm) long, thick and ringed, of different lengths depending on the habitat, and bowed out from the base with the tips almost always pointing in. Female horns are 3-6 in (8-15 cm) long, curved slightly forward, slender, and not ringed. Facial markings include numerous shades of brown throughout the face and two white stripes beginning from the eyes and ending near the nostrils. They have well-developed vision, along with good hearing and smell. Vision is the primary sense used for predator detection, whereas smell is used mainly for finding food. They have a large snout and tooth rows are nearly straight. The ears are relatively short.

DISTRIBUTION

Arabian Peninsula, Egypt, Iran, Israel, Jordan, Lebanon, Oman, Saudi Arabia, Syrian Arab Republic, Yemen, and the United Arab Emirates.

HABITAT

They are found in a wide variety of habitats in hilly and mountainous terrain, including light forests (especially oak and pine), fields, grasslands, and stony desert plateaus.

BEHAVIOR

Mountain gazelles are diurnal and highly territorial. Their territories are widely spaced apart. They generally gather in three groups: maternity herds, bachelor male herds, and territorial solitary males. Fights occur more frequently as males mature,

however fights between neighboring males are ritualized and less violent than when males fight over females. Immature bachelor males make more numerous contacts with their horn when fighting than do adult or territorial males. They regularly migrate over 75 mi (120 km) for food. Normally they will spend days resting and sleeping in hilly areas, and later will descend to valleys in order to feed at nights or in early mornings. They can run at high speeds for several hundred feet (meters), reaching speeds up to 50 mph (80 kph).

FEEDING ECOLOGY AND DIET

They are browsers and grazers, eating herbs and shrubs in the summer and green grasses in the winter. They are well adapted to living in harsh desert climates, being able to go without water for long periods of time. They utilize water from plants as well as dew, but also will visit waterholes on a frequent basis.

REPRODUCTIVE BIOLOGY

Polygymous. Males attend to one or more females and their young generally in groups of 3-8. Estrous occurs every 18 days and lasts 12-24 hours, repeating until the female becomes pregnant. Males and females reproduce with various partners. Females usually give birth to one baby per season (and, on average, 11 in her lifetime). The usual mating season is in early winter (October to November), although mating also occurs in the spring (April to mid-May) and at other times when food is plentiful. The gestation period is about 180 days. Newborns generally weigh about 11-12% of the mother's weight. Mothers give birth away from the herd. The newborn can stand shortly after birth, and spends the first few weeks nursing. They begin to take solid food when they are 3-6 weeks old, but suckling may last up to three months. Males do not contribute to the care of the young. At this time, mother and young will join a maternity herd. Female young will remain with the mother, but male young will leave the mother at about six months, joining a herd of young males. Females reach sexual maturity (and their adult weight) at about 18 months, while males reach this stage at about 3 years. They rarely live longer than eight years in the wild, but in captivity can live 12-15 years.

CONSERVATION STATUS

Lower Risk/Conservation Dependent. They are regularly threatened with human-induced habitat loss and degradation from increased amounts of pastureland for livestock and deforestation for agriculture and home building, along with invasive alien species and ongoing hunting by humans. Their primary predators are the cheetah and human, but are also sought after by the desert lynx, feral dog, hyena, jackal, leopard, red fox, and wolf. Predators do not (normally) affect their populations, except in the case of humans.

SIGNIFICANCE TO HUMANS

They are hunted for skins, meat, and as trophies and often eat the cultivated crops within their habitat. ♦

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